Maverick filmmaker Imtiaz Ali faced a major setback with the debacle of Jab Harry Met Sejal. As his next film Love Aaj Kal’s release is fast approaching, let’s revisit a cult classic he created and capture what makes this man so special.
Imtiaz Ali, an auteur whose wizardry transforms ephemeral moving pictures into entities with an eternal soul. Be it Jab We Met, Rockstar, Highway or Tamasha, we have recognized and adored the craft of this man. In this regard, Rockstar stands head and shoulders above the rest, as an imperfect concoction of honest storytelling, spectacular visuals, and phenomenal performances.
Rockstar can be categorized as a love story, a drama or even a musical. But it’s far from your run-of-the-mill love story that goes around in circles. Nor is it your archetypal ‘against the odds’ tale that is ostentatiously inspiring to the masses. It is far from a heroic tale sprinkled with hurdles for the hero to grandstand. Rather it talks the complete lack of it. When the protagonist rues not having a single problem, not being adopted and not having starved for food, we have a genuine film that talks mundanity without the frivolity often attached to it.
An outcast, thrown out of his family and kept aloof from his lover, he was ostracised from this sane society. His cynicism, contempt for the system and disdain for the orthodox values stems from this ostracism. But he is far from an anarchist or iconoclast, just a sane man living in an insane society.
The journey from the ingenuous youth wondering about the rapturous reception to Jim Morrison’s ‘middle finger act’ to producing one of his own in front of the high court. JJ, The rockstar has come a long way in realizing the price of freedom and the expense of his dreams.
“Marzi se jeene ki bhi main
Kya tum sabko main arzi doon
Matlab ki tum sabka mujhpe
Mujhse bhi zyada haq hai”
(An excerpt from Sadda Haq)
He laments the fact that the society has more authority over him than he has ever had on himself. He climbs to the top only to find out that he had to sacrifice the simple pleasures of life for his newfound stardom. Another striking evidence of this is provided in the song sequence ‘Dichotomy of Fame’. He attends a function of old friends, who barely talks to him but greedily poses for pictures with him. The ‘dichotomy of fame’ profoundly dissects the dual nature of celebrity life; the insularism that mirrors the glory.
Another notion of freedom that Imtiaz subtly puts across is the freedom of media. Though he emphasizes the importance of individual freedom, he simultaneously takes a jibe at the media habit of prying into personal space.
The weakest part of the film is its female lead played by Nargis Fakhri. But the sizzling chemistry between the lead pair more than makes amends for that frailty. There is an ineffable vehemence to the romance, that is so unique and captivating. The song ‘Aur Ho’ exemplifies the intensity of the romance and artfully portrays the helplessness and the yearning of the characters.
Even though one can nit-pick a few botches, one can’t look past its overwhelming positives. The two men largely responsible for this, apart from Imtiaz, are AR Rahman and Ranbir Kapoor. Rockstar has 14 unique tracks of various genres that make it arguably the most versatile Bollywood album of all time. Its incredible variety boasts of Sufi, Pahadi, Punjabi, Rock, Concert, to name a few.
From an imbecile Delhi boy to the revered Rockstar, Ranbir Kapoor owns the game. He gives a commanding performance with a myriad of emotions ranging from demureness to crude anguish. This is the true coming of age performance of the blue-blooded, Kapoor
I can go on and on about the magic of this film. But,
“Jo bhi main, kehna chahoon
Barbaad karein, alfaaz mere, alfaaz mere”
(I’am afraid my words would belie the magic!)